This Chapter analyses one harmonisation project within European intellectual property law, namely, the recent development of trade mark law within the European Union (EU). It highlights several characteristics of trade mark harmonisation within the European Union.
First, harmonisation of national trade mark laws in the Union has been “tight”. In this regard, for reasons that make sense in the European political and legal theatre, it is different from the international model of so-called “minimum rights” harmonisation that drove convergence of trade mark norms for the preceding century. Second, the Trade Mark Directive (with the aid of the Court of Justice and national courts) has effected almost total harmonisation of substantive trade mark law, belying the claims of limited harmonisation that are found in the recital to that Directive. Third, the Court of Justice has exhibited a tendency to limit any room for member state manoeuvre, for example, finding that even optional provisions of the Directive must be given a single European meaning. The Court has paid little attention to concerns of subsidiarity. Finally, additional pressure to find single European solutions results from the existence of a Trade Mark Regulation that creates a counterpart unitary regional right (the Community Trade Mark, or CTM) and attendant EU institutions to administer and enforce that right.
This parallel EU-level regime tends to reinforce the idea that trade mark law has been wholly Europeanised, and exerts pressure on the content of Directive-driven national law because the demands of vertical coherence have trumped the potential benefits of regulatory competition between national and regional regimes. In short, there has over the past twenty years been an extensive and deep Europeanisation of trade mark law. But this in turn raises ongoing questions about how best to develop harmonised European principles, because harmonisation is a dynamic lawmaking process and not a static legislative instrument.
In this Chapter, I consider how the process of harmonisation has affected the development of optimal principles of trade mark law, an analysis that is necessarily informed by substantive preferences. It is only by measuring harmonisation by reference to some form of substantive metric that a full assessment of the harmonisation process can be made. I suggest that it important to recognise the important role of national courts in the development of EU trade mark law (in part because of the nature of the field of law), and that paying attention to national legal traditions would assist the Court of Justice in improving the quality of European trade mark law.
Featured here is the beginning of a paper by Graeme B. Dinwoodie, Professor of Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at the University of Oxford. He is also Director of the Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre, and a Professorial Fellow of St. Peter’s College. The full article can be found here.